How Richard Posner Writes

I suppose that having hypergraphia helps:

Describe your morning routine.

I don’t really have any routines. Well, if I’m at home or in the office I have a desk and a computer. And I write. I’ve never thought in terms of any particular routine. There are a lot of interruptions, emails and so on. Whenever I have free time, I write. Judicial opinions or academic stuff. I don’t have any quota of words. I understand full-time novelists, say, they will want to do a certain amount of words a day in order to finish a book. Often it’s the same type of day, the same writing instruments. I’m not at all like that. I have to give priority to my judicial work, so when I write an opinion or when I’m editing, I always do my judicial work first.

You have the distinction of being the most cited legal scholar of the 20th century. My colleague, AJ Jacobs’ father, is in the Guinness Book of World Records for having written the legal article with the most citations. How do you feel to be so…well, cited?

Ha! I didn’t know that about myself! Well, it just shows I’m compulsive, right? I’m a compulsive writer. That’s funny. I am compulsive. I don’t do much else. I don’t take vacations. My wife and I don’t go out often. Sometimes for dinner or the theater, but not often. So I work weekends, nights. I have lots of time and I write. I am fast, I cover a lot of ground.

[. . .]

At this point in your career, would you like to sit on the Supreme Court?

No. First I’m too old. I’m 74 and they don’t appoint people my age.

But you sound peppy.

Well, I don’t like the Supreme Court. I don’t think it’s a real court. I think of it as basically…it’s like a House of Lords. It’s a quasi-political body. President, Senate, House of Representatives, Supreme Court. It’s very political. And they decide which cases to hear, which doesn’t strike me as something judges should do. You should take what comes. When you decide which case to hear it means you’ve decided the cases ahead of time. Also, because I’m a compulsive writer, I like to write. The way we hear cases, we occasionally have cases that all the judges sit on, but most of the time, we’re sitting in panels of three judges, so we split up the case among three judges. Sometimes I assign myself a little more than a third, because I’m selfish. But if you sit with eight other people [like the Supreme Court] you only get 1/9th of the cases to write. I’m not interested in that. Now the Supreme Court justices write very, very few majority opinions. Last year they saw 74 cases. Divide that by 9 and that’s a little more than 8 opinions a year. That’s ridiculous! I write around 90 opinions a year. I think they get up to an average of about 20 opinions per justice total. I don’t enjoy writing dissenting and concurring opinions, because once the case is decided, there’s very little interest in these other opinions. I just wouldn’t enjoy the Supreme Court. Absolutely no desire to be on it.

(Via Josh Blackman.)

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